Kid-friendly Ice Cream Balls

Once in a while I like to post a recipe here. When I do it’s not just a random recipe we like, it’s got a story. It’s one that the whole family enjoys. This one is no different.

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Ice Cream balls taste like my childhood. If you make this recipe, while you are eating it straight out of your hand, you will be able to think to yourself, “oh. This is what Katie’s childhood tasted like.”

My mom made these for every single family get together, but I specifically remember them on birthdays. For our birthday parties, my mom invited her three sisters and their families over on a Sunday after church. This included my three uncles and my six cousins and my grandma.

Dinner was always something huge that included meat, veggies, rolls, potato somethings or others, jello with fruit and Cool Whip, and salads. My mom would put all the leaves (leafs?) of the dining room table in and then get out a couple of my dad’s saw horses and a giant board to extend that into the kitchen. She would spread a good table cloth (and some sheets) over all of it, put out the good china, and the fancy water glasses.

My mom poured herself into those meals. She set everything up the night before, even going so far as to put place-holders all over the table where things would go: baskets for the bread, pot holders and trivets for the hot dishes. She set the table the night before and cut and chopped and had tiny containers and baggies for fixin’s ready to go the next day, because of course she still planned on going to church first.

The other thing about about those birthday parties is that we didn’t just have a birthday cake, she also made dessert.

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That’s right. We ate dinner around 12:30pm, then had dessert, then sat around feeling huge and did presents, and THEN we did cake and ice cream.

They were entire afternoon events and they are the reason I invite all our family over for our kids’ birthday parties too. Some day I hope to have enough room to actual sit and have a meal rather than serve buffet style, but that is neither here nor there.

My mom always made at least two desserts: a pie and ice cream balls.

Just recently I remembered those ice cream balls. It’s been over a decade since I’ve had one, but I can still remember crowding around with my brothers and cousins trying to quickly grab the biggest one with the thickest layer of coating.

Rather than giving us a bowl and spoon, my mom shooed us outside and we ate it straight out of the muffin liner; my younger brothers and cousins taking off their shirts in preparation for the impending melty ice cream that would trickle down their fronts as they struggled to keep up.

I had them probably twice a year, but oh man…those two times were enough to cement their taste in my brain as the Greatest Treat of Childhood.

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we ate ours in bowls…with Hershey’s chocolate. Mmm.

This week I asked my mom for the recipe. My brothers overheard and we swapped stories of their deliciousness and how great our birthday parties were because of them. As I made them I realized why mom always made them. They are so dang easy. Messy, but easy.

And now I am sharing with you.

Ice Cream Balls

Ingredients

  • 1 packet graham crackers (crushed)
  • 1/3 cup butter (melted)
  • 1/4 cup brown sugar
  • 1/3 cup crunchy peanut butter
  • 1/2 gallon vanilla ice cream

Directions

Step 1
line a 12-cup muffin pan with liners
Step 2
in a medium bowl, mix all ingredients except the ice cream.
Step 3
create 2-inch balls of ice cream one at a time. I recommend using an old-fashioned ice cream scoop to do this.
Step 4
Roll each ball in the mixture and place in a muffin cup. You'll have to work fast so the ice cream doesn't melt!
Step 5
cover muffin pan with foil and place in your freezer for at least an hour before serving.

What treat do you remember best from your childhood? What treat do your own children love?

Setting the Precedent

In a week my firstborn will be done with Kindergarten and ready to start what he calls, “the number grades.” He had a great year in Kindergarten and never once did I wonder if maybe we should have held him back because he still isn’t even six yet.

Nope. Eddie was ready for absolutely everything–even homework.

As a teacher, I am not the biggest fan of assigning homework, but Eddie’s teacher didn’t give the kids more than was appropriate for their age. Eddie brought home five books from their Just Right Library each week which he read to us nightly. In the beginning of the year, they would bring a writing packet home on Mondays and it wasn’t due back until the following Monday. And occasionally he would need to bring in things like seeds or leaves. He also had one large project that they started at school and had to complete at home by the end of spring break (it was assigned two weeks before spring break, thus giving us plenty of time to prepare).

Everything about this school year felt to me like we were setting precedents: what we expected of our children as far as getting homework done, the quality of their in school and out of school work, their behavior, their effort. This school year we discussed kindness to others and when to walk away from an argument. We talked about being respectful to adults and peers. We discussed when you need to get help from an adult.

And we also set a precedent for parent-involvement in homework.

Obviously we prize reading in our house. Most of the time getting the Just Right Library books read was not a big deal and didn’t cause too many struggles. Writing packets started out rough, though, and in the end I told Eddie if he did one page a night he wouldn’t find himself crying on Sunday afternoon. I also told him I was not going to make him do them. That if he really didn’t want to, he could bring it back undone and tell his teacher about why he chose not to do it.

He never left his homework undone. He didn’t want to disappoint his teacher.

By the middle of the school year, Eddie was more and more excited about things they were doing in school. Just before spring break each student chose an animal they would like to make out of clay in class. Then, at home, they needed to create the animal’s habitat using a box (diorama-style). The habitats with animals would be displayed above each student’s locker.

We decided to do ours over spring break since Alice had just been born, and spend the couple weeks before then brainstorming and planning. Cortney did all the morning drop-offs and most pick-ups and reported that habitats were already starting to come in and be displayed–and you could totally tell the level of parental involvement in each one.

I had to tread lightly.

As a perfectionist, I wanted to tell Eddie exactly how to create a rabbit (his chosen animal) habitat, and then maybe take over when he didn’t do it how I wanted. But as a teacher, I knew I needed him to do all of the thinking and as much of the execution as possible. I just had to help him get there.

So first we talked about it. I asked a lot of questions: where do rabbits live? What do they eat? Where do they sleep? When he wasn’t sure about something, we Googled it and read the information together.

He started telling me what he wanted in his habitat: trees, a burrow, berry bushes, and a sky. So we thought about what we could use to make those things and he started a list of what we would need with check boxes. Then we went to the craft store. He brought a pencil and checked things off as we went.

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I was very proud of him that he was taking such ownership of this project and that he seemed to want to get it just right. Not once did I have to prod and say, “come on, you need to do this.” In fact, he sort of pestered me about it. Once we had the supplies every day he asked, “are we going to put it together today, mom???”

Finally spring break arrived and one day during Charlie’s nap, I actually got Alice to sleep at the same time. We hurried to get some of the painting portions done so they could dry before we attached them. All I did was get the paint out for him. He did the rest. The next day, he worked during nap again to get it all together.

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He asked my advice, and I sat by him holding things for him here and cutting things for him there. I never told him how to do any of it other than once saying, “I don’t think you can glue that rock there and have it hold. But if you want to try, you can.”

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Once he had it all done, it was all he could do to be patient until Cortney came home so he could show daddy his finished product. He had trees (because rabbits live in a forest), a log with fluff and feathers (because that is the burrow the rabbit put her nest in), and berries (because rabbits like to eat berries for dessert). It was his idea to gather real leaves and grass. It was his idea to collect TP rolls for tree trunks.

It was also his idea to cover the diaper box in blue paper because he didn’t want his friends to see he used a baby diaper box. Apparently your baby brother and sister’s diapers are embarrassing in Kindergarten. Whatever.

This year we have watched Eddie grow and learn so much.

When he went in he could read a handful of sight words, now he is reading like crazy. He even reads bedtime stories now instead of me doing it.

When he went in he thought toots and buns were funny, but now he thinks farts and butts are funny. And poop. And he says “Oh my gosh!” and “I’m just thinking out loud here…”

He is sassier and bolder with his talking back to us, but he is also a better playmate and role model for Charlie.

And he is like three inches taller or something crazy like that.

I’m excited for him to start First Grade in the fall. I’m  pleased with the high expectations we have set both for him and his siblings.

As fellow oldest children, Cortney and I know what it’s like to have to “go first” with everything in life. To have to be the ones that are the precedent setters for the younger siblings. To be the “Guinea pigs” for strategies to deal with behavior.

We don’t want to go “easy” on Eddie because we empathize, rather we want him to know we are all a team getting through this whole thing called parenting and school and life together.

Binge Watching with Netflix

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I’ve watched hours of a show before. When I stumble upon a marathon of a sitcom or show I love on television, I have been known to lose that day (and night) to the TV. But just this past week I learned the true meaning of what “binge watching is.”

I just finished the first season of Orange is the New Black.

YOU GUYS. IT IS SO GOOD.

Ok, for over a year now you have all been raving about this show. Last year I had the opportunity to meet Piper Kerman (the author of the book the series is based on), so I quick read the book. It is phenomenal.

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Almost everyone at the event had already watched the two seasons that Netflix had released. I may have been the only one who had ONLY read the book. I was excited to watch the series, but it was hard with two little boys at home to find time to watch something alone. Since I was pregnant with Alice, I was just too dang tired at night after the boys went to bed.

So I put it at the top of my maternity leave watch list, after Friends of course (I know, I know…I had already seen all of those episodes a million times. Don’t judge). Last week I finally started season one. And holy cow! I don’t think I have ever been so into a show in all of my life.

Alice and I hunkered down every afternoon on the couch. At first I tried to do work while I watched, like I did when I watched Friends. I quickly learned that no, I was not going to accomplish anything while it was on.

The show is nothing and everything like the book. A lot of the characters from the book are represented (some more fully than others) in the show, and a few of the stories that Kerman tells in the book have also clearly inspired certain episodes. The show also does a good job of showing the corruption and problems with the penitentiary system in the United States that Kerman strives to show in her memoir.

That is where the similarities end. The series has WAY more sex, way more drama, and the characters are way more exaggerated. And it’s awesome!

Don’t get me wrong, I adore the memoir. In fact, I want to re-read it, but the show is amazing in a different way. Just like when I am entrenched in a book and think about it when I’m not reading it, I get caught up in the show’s plot lines. I love that the series also follows some of the inmates’ stories of how they ended up in prison. I love that it’s not just about Piper.

In fact, I haven’t started season 2 yet because I actually have work to do and I simply can do nothing but watch when it’s on.

So as soon as I meet some deadlines (ahem, this is one of them), I am going to plow through season 2 because, HELLO, season 3 will be available in in June!!!  Just in time for my kids to be home, which means I will have to figure out how to watch in the evenings or on the weekends.

I’m going to guess most of you have watched the show; have you also read the book?

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This is not a sponsored post. I am a member of the Netflix #StreamTeam, so I receive a year-long subscription to Netflix and a device to view it on, but I am not compensated in any other way. All opinions are my own.

Little Sister

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I can’t set Alice down without this happening. Her brothers swarm.

I expected it from Eddie. From the minute we told him I was pregnant, he has been wishing and praying for a sister. His reasoning? “I already have a brother and I do NOT want another one.” Ok then.

Eddie has been every bit of the best big brother I expected him to be. When Charlie was born, Eddie was two and a half. He doted on Charlie even at that young age. He loves babies. He is gentle and kind and soothing.

He offers to hold Alice and sing to her and feed her.

He tells her she is pretty and asks her what is wrong if she fusses.

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Eddie will always be her rock.

She will come to him with her heartbreaks and her victories. He will be her shoulder, her support system. He will teach her that she is worth more than all the gold in the world. He will stand behind her in all her choices. He will argue for her when she gets in trouble. He will probably do her chores so she can do something else.

She might take advantage of his heart, but I hope not.

I expected Eddie to be attentive and love on her.

I did not know what to expect from Charlie, but since he showed little interest in any other baby in the entire world, I thought maybe he would ignore her at best, show jealous rages at worst.

But you know what happens when you think you know your kid?

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He surprises you in the most wonderful way.

Charlie is completely taken by “Baby Alice” or “Allie Beans” or “Baby Alice Beans”. He loves her fiercely.

He is protective, caring, and borderline violent about her happiness. The first day she was home, I was feeding her and he put his hand to his ear and said, “what’s that noise?  That ::makes a kissing noise:: sound?” And I said, “That’s Baby Alice. She’s sucking on her bottle.”

From that moment his ears have been set to her. One peep and he is by her side. If he can’t get to her side, he will very loudly announce that SOMEONE needs to get there. “BABY ALICE BEANS IS CRYING! MOM MOM! DAD DAD!”

 

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If Eddie is her rock, Charlie will be her guardian.

Woe to the boy that does wrong by Alice. Charlie acts first, thinks later–which means anyone who hurts his sister? Well his ass will be grass.

As Sonny was for Connie, Charlie will be for Alice. Let’s just hope it ends better for Charlie. Luckily there are no toll roads in Michigan. (please tell me you get this reference. PLEASE or we cannot be friends.)

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(I have no idea what is going on in this picture, but I do know it was probably ridiculous. I’m guessing the smell of poop was involved).

Eddie makes her coo.

Charlie makes her laugh.

Eddie calms her.

Charlie delights her.

I could be totally wrong about how their relationships turn out. Maybe Alice’s personality will clash with one or both of her brothers.

I hope not.

I hope this love is something she is already internalizing.

If her smiles and coos and finger-holding are any indication, these three are going to be quite the unstoppable sibling team. I can’t wait to watch them grow up together.

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I Am

I am a wife, mother, teacher, believer.
I wonder about big things like life and death and the possibility of eternity.
I hear the many names I am called and I wonder which one is truest.

I see myself in my children.
I want to save every child, starting with my own, from having to feel hurt or dumb or not enough.
I am a feeler and a thinker.


I pretend to be the best.
I feel inadequate most of the time.
I touch lives and minds.
I worry that I will never completely fulfill my potential…or read all the books.
I cry in laughter, frustration, and sadness.
I am an actress.

I understand that doubt is ok.
I say “I love you” frequently.
I dream of a day when love will win.
I try to walk the path I talk.
I hope I am not letting you down.
I am a work in progress.

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Join in with OSB by heading to the hostesses, Elaine and Angela, for this month’s prompt and link up.

Done

During my pregnancy with Charlie, Cortney made it known that two kids were enough. He was very happy with two boys and with being a family of four. I was not convinced.

Then Charlie was born. The night of his birth, after everyone had left the hospital and we were alone, I held him close to my face, breathed deeply, and whispered, “you are not my last baby.”

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My heart knew I couldn’t call it quits already then, and as my boys grew and interacted with each other, it still felt like our family wasn’t whole. Someone was missing. There was a spot in all photos of our family that seemed as if it was waiting to be filled.

For as long as I can remember, I wanted all boys. Four boys. I wanted tall, loving boys who doted on their little mother. I pictured boys when I pictured my family. Back in high school the husband in the picture was never quite clear, but four boys was.

Then Alice was not a boy, and I was confused because I have boys. I have two boys and I (thought) was having another. Cortney and I talked about whether or not we would be done after this baby, but I wasn’t sure. I didn’t think I could be sure until the baby was here for a while. Maybe I still needed that fourth child I always dreamed of…even if all of my kids weren’t boys.

To complicate matters, my pregnancy with Alice was difficult. In fact, each pregnancy was more difficult than the one before. Could I even endure a fourth (well, actually sixth) pregnancy? Somewhere between finding out Alice was a girl and feeling like garbage every day for 39 weeks, we became 98% sure there would be no more babies. It wasn’t because Alice was a girl, but rather because there was no way my body could go through another pregnancy like hers. It felt as if my body was constantly shouting at me that it just couldn’t go through this again.

When Alice was born and placed in my arms, I knew. Our family was complete. The missing piece of our puzzle was a little girl I didn’t know I wanted…or needed. Three was our number.

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Both Cortney and I are very VERY ok with our decision. We are totally sure. We are at peace. And yet…

Last Friday the doneness became official with a thirty-minute doctor’s office visit for Cortney. In the days leading up to that procedure, I had feelings. They didn’t have anything to do with wanting to be pregnant again or having more children. I feel very, very good about NOT being pregnant again and NOT having more crazy children. We are a party of five.

The feelings are about an almost imperceptible shift.

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Last Monday Alice and I were at Meijer to get groceries. I was just getting her out of her car seat and fitted in the Moby wrap when an old high school friend walked up to say hello and congratulations on the baby. She had seen pictures on Facebook and thought Alice was precious. I love it when people stop to say hello and tell me my baby is cute, so as Alice and I made our way to the carts with our grocery list in hand, I had a smile on my face. I felt good.

But as we navigated the baby department for diapers and formula, I thought about that friend and her children–all older than Eddie (who will be six in June). Then I thought about the vast number of women from my high school graduating class who have kids who are all older than my kids. One friend has a son getting married. Another is a grandmother already.

I pressed my nose against Alice’s fluffy hair as she snoozed against my chest and I sniffed the new baby smell.

I felt old.

For the first time in my life, I felt old.

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Birthdays have never really affected me. The number has never defined me or how I felt about myself. My experiences are what generated my feelings. When I got married at age twenty-seven, I felt young because I was a bride! I even said to my best friend/matron of honor, “OH MY GOSH! I am getting MARRIED today! That is such a GROWN UP THING!” She laughed at me because duh, I was twenty-seven. I was a grown-up.

When I had Eddie at age thirty-one I never thought, “aw jeez, I am having my first child in my 30’s.”  Rather I felt young and naive because I was a brand new mom with a new baby.

Now something has shifted.

I am no longer a newly wed; we are celebrating ten years in a month.

I am no longer a new mom; this is my third baby.

I am no longer in my child-bearing years; Cortney has taken care of that.

We are now officially starting a new era.

Cortney always liked to use soccer terms to talk about whether we were trying for a baby or not. We were either practicing or pulling the goalie and playing for real. Now he has said we are just on an alumni league where no one keeps score anymore.

It’s much harder on me than I thought it would be.

Not because I want more children, but because the Baby Years are over.

We are done.

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At the same time, we are at the beginning of something new. Of the “growing up years”. These are the years that family memories are made of.

Looking back on my childhood, the years after my youngest brother was born is where those “family memories” really begin.

That is where we are: starting those years my kids will remember as their childhood.

There is a loss I am grieving, though. The loss of my “young” years of child-bearing. The excitement of not knowing who was coming into our family next.

We are all here now. We are done. We are ready to begin.

Mother Lover

Top Ten Reasons I Love My Mom

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she does a good job tolerating me.

1. She always puts up with my dramatics and ridiculousness.

2. Even though she doesn’t “get” my sense of humor, she rolls with it. Most of the time. Unless it involves swearing.

3. She spoils my kids in ways she would never, ever had allowed when I was growing up under her supervision.

4. She is quick to point out how my children are like me (crazy) and how they are not (chill).

5. She never once blamed her her childhood disadvantages for anything.

6. She was quick to credit her childhood (and my grandmother) for many things.

7. She still buys me birthday gifts and makes my favorite foods…even though I am thirty-seven…because she knows my love language is gifts. And I love that she never makes me feel bad about that.

8. Her logic evens out my irrational 98% of the time. The other 2% is why I take meds.

9. She has never let me down. Except when she missed Charlie’s first birthday party to go to Mexico. I KID, MOM! I KID! (She just mumbled “Oh GUY, Kate!” to the computer. Just take my word for it. She loves when I push her buttons.)

10. She wouldn’t have given me the world even if she could have because she would have wanted me work for it which is probably why I am a hard-worker as an adult. But her love she gave freely…and still does. I never deserved it or had to earn it. She just doles it out unconditionally.

That's me on my great grandma Katherine's lap. in the middle is my grandma Jo. On the right is my beautiful mother.

That’s me on my great grandma Katherine’s lap. in the middle is my grandma Jo. On the right is my beautiful mother. Four generations of AWESOME women.

 

Top Ten Reasons I Love Being A Mom

2015-04-05 12.42.261. My kids are the funniest people on the planet even if the majority of their jokes have to do with bodily functions and “booty butts”.

2. Whenever I start to get overconfident, my children point out my weaknesses (“Mom, please don’t sing. It’s terrible”) and keep me grounded.

3. Having an excuse to bake cookies and cake and all the treats. It’s for the kids, yo.

4. Reading with small people and watching them learn to read by themselves and feeling awe that this person who is READING was a nothing and then grew in my stomach and is now READING.

5. Homemade gifts.

6. Endless bouquets of dandelions.

7. Sticky faces close to my ear whispering “I love you Mom Mom.”

8. Honest awe and declarations of “Mom, you’re BEAUTIFUL!” when I get ready for church.

9. Run-by huggings.

10. Middle of the night snuggles to ward off bad dreams, growing pains, or sadness.

Because motherhood is always full of smiles and cooperative children, yes?

Because motherhood is always full of smiles and cooperative children, yes?

 

Happy Mother’s Day to all the mothers that are and ever were and ever will be.

And thank you, Mom, for being you and showing me how to be a great mother. It’s the most frustrating and lovely thing I have done with my life so far.

 

Two Months, Two Girls

Dear Alice,

You are two months old.

This week you had your well-child visit and weighed in at 11lbs, 9 ounces and 23 inches long!  That is a gain of both three pounds AND three inches in the last six weeks! That even impressed the doctor. Needless to say, you are well out of newborn clothes–they are all packed away.

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I can’t believe how much you have changed this month! You went from a completely floppy newborn to a baby who can hold her head pretty still, work her arms and legs, and coo and smile–especially at Charlie.

This month has been full of firsts again: first visit to my school, first grocery shopping excursion in the moby, and first fever.

The fever was this past weekend. You slept ’round the clock and just weren’t your usual perky self. But as of Tuesday, you seem to have kicked it. You’re back to being awake for a couple hours at a time and being content to hang out in the rock n play or bounce seat and just watch me or your brothers as we carry on our daily business.

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Hilariously, you’ve also found your tongue. You stick it out and make all kinds of funny faces. You also like to blow bubbles and I’m not entirely convinced that Charlie didn’t teach you that.

You are a fantastic eater and sleeper! Daddy and I are super pleased about this. Your eating schedule is almost regular enough to set your watch to: four ounces every three hours, except at night where you will go four, five, sometimes six  hours at a stretch (usually on daddy’s nights, ya stinker)!

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Everyone who meets you gasps and says, “Well it’s Eddie with a bow!” or “Eddie junior!” And you do look so, SO much like your biggest brother.  I need to write a separate post about your brothers and how they interact with you, because there is just so much to say, but I will say Eddie is is my helper with you. He can feed you and hold you and give you your pacifier. And he is so gentle with you.

Charlie, on the other hand, is rough and loud and you love it. Your first laugh was at Charlie sticking his face in yours and saying something ridiculous like “booty butts are stinky.”

In fact, while I was taking there pictures, he was off to the side doing this:

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Stick with those brothers of yours…they will be your everything.

Speaking of sticking close…you like “close”. Just like your brothers before you, swaddling is your best friend for sleep, and being “worn” in the moby is a surefire way to get you to chill out.

But different than the boys, you won’t tolerate being uncomfortable. While your brothers could sit in a wet diaper for days (I never let them, thank you), you don’t like to be less than dry. Charlie still poops in his diaper and then avoids me. I have no idea why…who wants to sit in poop?  You seem to agree with me.

If you’re cold, you’ll grumble.

I call you a diva, Daddy calls you his “dainty girl”.

Toe-may-to, Toe-mah-to.

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I am having so much fun with you, Alice. I have been thinking it over for days in preparation for this post, and I just can’t put into words how you are different than your brothers.  How you being a girl is different already at two months old.

I’m not sure if it’s the clothes or the bows or the shoes. I don’t think that is it. Or at least not all of it. There is something else. Something deeper and more ingrained than I could imagine.

Your dad and I aren’t gender stereotype pushers by any means (in fact, Eddie pointed out the other day that there are no dresses in the men’s section at Meijer which seemed dumb, because would a guy have to shop in the ladies department for dresses then if he wanted one? I love that kid, by the way). And I never believe people who said, “there’s just something different with boys and girls.” I mean, there is the physical difference, but there is something else too.

There is a connection that is different. I wonder if Daddy feels that way about you too. You and I are “The Girls” in conversation about our family.

I am not alone anymore. It’s not me and then my three dudes. It’s you and me–together–and then our three dudes. I have a teammate now.

And apparently I have a shopping buddy because Daddy is thinking of enforcing a ban on the two of us going to Target together ever again because we can’t seem to go together without coming home with something for you. Heh.

When I found out you were a girl and not another boy, I had admit I had a moment of silence for loss of the Lone Lady status in the house. I was a little afraid to share “my” boys with another girl.

But you’re alright, kid.

I think you and I will be a great team.  We already are.

Love,

Momma

Ps. This is how you compare to your brothers at the same age (2 months)…

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Art on Mondays

What do you want to be when you grow up?

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An artist.

And I will live with you and do art on Mondays.

Forever.

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Eddie is now one step closer to that dream of doing art on Mondays.

His piece was chosen for his school district’s spring art show.

It was on display with other pieces from students in grades K-12.

He is very proud.

And so are we.

Although that part about living with us forever is still up for discussion.

Think About It

My earliest memory of math is the homemade flashcards my mom made out of index cards to help me get faster with my addition and subtraction skills, and later my multiplication skills. Remember those sheets you would get in school that you had to try to get done in like five seconds or something dumb? I was slow and my mom wanted to help me get faster.

I hated those damn flashcards.

A few years later came fractions. If I thought I hated those flashcards, then fractions were straight up devil’s work.

Looking back, I blame the way math was taught, but that’s a whole different post. The fact was that math was hard for me, but I didn’t want to fail.  And my parents didn’t want me to either.

Fast-forward to nightly math homework starting in middle school with all the equations and fractions. I remember sitting at the kitchen table with my head in my hands. Whoever had those textbooks in the years after me will probably find small wrinkled spots throughout the pages where my frustrated tears landed.

My mom, while naturally a numbers person (she’s an accountant), is more of a number organizer than a math person. My dad, on the other hand, has worked with fractions his whole life. He worked for Herman Miller–an office furniture giant–as a model maker. He and his team made the first prototypes (and following models) of what the designers dreamed up. Fractions were pretty much second-nature to him.

But he didn’t attempt to re-teach me fractions. Instead, he re-read the math problem with me. Thought about it and then said to me, “Think about it, Kate. Think about it.”

He wasn’t trying to get out of helping me, but he wanted me to really try before I gave up. He knew that I read the problem, got overwhelmed, and shut down. He wanted me to try to get it before declaring it impossible. Ninety-five percent of the time, that phrase was all it took for me to at least understand what the question was asking me. Often I still needed his help for how to set up the equation (especially if it involved fractions), but that simple phrase, “think about it,” was really telling me, “you can do this. I know you can, Kate.”

*************

This past fall, while discussing the accomplishments of my brothers and I in high school, college, and career, my dad said, “You weren’t the most naturally gifted of the three of you, but you were the hardest working.”

I smiled and nodded. All three of us did quite well for ourselves academically. Their stories are not mine to tell, but I can say we all graduated high school with decent to excellent grades and GPAs, and we all got into the universities of our choice.

What we did to get there, stay there (some of us), and beyond wasn’t so much a reflection on who was the smartest, my dad pointed out. And success wasn’t determined by anything other than what you wanted to do with your life and whether you worked to achieve it.

You weren’t the most naturally gifted of the three of you, but you were the hardest working.

I spent a few days pondering these words.

It’s not really fun to be called “not the most naturally talented” even if you know that what the speaker was saying wasn’t meant to be a put-down.

I knew my dad was trying to compliment me, but I kept turning the words over in my head for another week until the night of my dad’s retirement celebration and dinner.

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I’m going to confess something here. Even though my dad was retiring after 40+ years of working for the same company, I never thought about how this event was a big deal. The thing is, my dad is probably one of the most humble people to walk this earth. He just says “thanks” or shrugs it off if you tell him he did something amazing. So because he didn’t make a big deal about the event, I guess I forgot to too.

Then people he worked with started getting up and talking about how hardworking he is. They said phrases like, “Tom would say ‘yes’ to anything and then figure out how to make it work,” “Tom taught me that with hard work, you can do anything,” and “Tom is probably the hardest working person I have ever worked with.”

It’s one thing to know your dad believes in hard work, it’s another to listen to people talk about it and gush about how much they have learned from working with him.

That night I realized that my dad taught me about hard work too, and when he told me I was the hardest working of all three of his kids, it was one of the biggest compliments he could give. I didn’t just rely on my natural abilities (of which I had few), I decided I wanted to do well, and I did it.

“Think about it, Kate,” became my motto to myself through college when my dad wasn’t there to stand over my shoulder while I did homework or had to make a choice about going to class or sleeping in.

It became ingrained in my problem-solving and trouble-shooting when lesson planning, figuring out behavior plans, writing grad school papers, and even deciding what is the next best step for my career.

My dad’s words made a much bigger impact than just figuring out fractions, which if we are being honest here, I still have problems with, those words became how I navigate life.

*************

Happy 65th birthday, Dad. I love you and I hope I can teach Eddie, Charlie, and Alice all to “think about it.”

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